It is always wonderful to be invited. Whether or not we want to attend an event is secondary, but no one wants to be left out. I remember the first invitation I received to a national event for theological scholars. The invitation read, “You are invited to attend an exclusive event for the community of theological scholars in America.” That sounded affirming and self-esteem building. I showed my wife, Marlene, the invitation. Then I declined. I didn’t want to bother attending the event.
Now I have been invited to events that I eagerly accepted. They were events of which I deeply wanted to be a part.
For the early generations in the Bible, the people of God were pleading with God to show up. An eager invitation was extended to Him to destroy their enemies, aid God’s people in time of need, give them wisdom that could only come from Him and inhabit the tabernacle or temple. They even invited Him to be physically present. And, eager to meet His people, God generally accepted the invitation of the faithful. Mind you, it was the invitation of the faithful that interested Him most.
At times, He defeated the enemies, appeared in a cloud, gave the needed rains or poured out abundance at harvest time. The more thankful among them would celebrate His answers to their invitation with Psalms, other songs and special celebrations. However, of all the responses to our invitation, Christmas was the greatest by far. For God to make himself physically present tops the chart. We call it the first Advent of Jesus. The second is yet to come.
His response to that invitation became an invitation of sorts that He gave back to us. For those of us who invite Jesus to be present in our lives, He has never been found neglectful. Christmas is not just about Jesus coming to be with us to accept our invitation. It is also about accepting His invitation to join Him in abundant living and eventually heaven. He invites us though He was rejected by the innkeeper, Herod and eventually humanity (John 1:11 and 1 Peter 2:4). He invites us to share in His inheritance and to have the Holy Spirit to live in and among us.
Jesus stands at the door and knocks (Revelation 3:20). He has been knocking for quite some time. It is not just that we would invite Him in; He wants us to respond to His invitation to be, do and live meaningfully.
There are two invitations at play every Advent season. One is our invitation to Him: “Welcome, Lord Jesus.” We are grateful that He has come into our world. We prepare the day and the symbols, and we hopefully model the behaviors that show how grateful we are that He came and still comes into our world.
But there is a second invitation – His invitation to us. At that time, we should do a soul audit. Have we accepted His invitation to receive His Holy Spirit, to live righteously, to live the good news and share it with others?
The Bible is full of commands and promises. Many of these commands and promises are placed in the setting of this grand invitation to us. Will you accept His invitation to give all and live for Him for the rest of your life? That would be an invitation that Jesus would be sure to accept and attend to with great detail.
BISHOP MATTHEW THOMAS has been an active part of the Free Methodist Church since 1979. His ministry roles have included serving as a pastor, church planter, missionary and superintendent.3